UK Politics

Ed Miliband: Londoners need priority over foreign housing investors

Ed Miliband Image copyright Getty Images

A future Labour government would ban developers of London housing from marketing new properties overseas until local people have had a chance to buy or rent, Ed Miliband has vowed.

Mr Miliband said it was "scandalous" that entire blocks of new homes in sought-after areas were standing empty amid a "chronic" housing shortage.

Council tax could be doubled on empty homes, he also suggested.

But the Conservatives said he had "no plan to deal with the problem".

In an article for the Evening Standard, the Labour leader wrote: "For many of those Londoners who used to dream of owning their own home, their hopes are fading as fast as the prices rise beyond their reach.

"The cause is simple: there is a chronic shortage of affordable homes in Britain, and nowhere is this clearer than in London."

Labour has promised to build at least 200,000 new homes annually by 2020 if it wins the 2015 general election by creating a new generation of garden cities, targeting land-hoarding by developers with a "use it or lose it" policy and giving councils powers to force neighbouring authorities to co-operate on planning proposals under a new "right to grow".

'Difficulty for employers'

"Londoners must be given a real chance to buy or rent these new homes," Mr Miliband continued.

"We will stop developers advertising properties overseas first and ensure they are available for the people that really need them.

"We will give councils proper powers to tackle 'buy-to-leave'. We will consult on allowing councils to double the amount of additional council tax they can charge on empty properties, and close loopholes which mean homes are not considered empty if they are furnished with just a single table and chair."

Local authorities can currently charge up to an additional 50% in council tax on homes that have been empty and unfurnished for two years or more.

Mr Miliband argued that the housing shortage did not only affect those trying to get on the housing ladder.

"It is also causing deep difficulty for employers, both in the public and private sector. Indeed, the CBI recently highlighted the cost and lack of suitable housing for skilled employees as the biggest threat to London's position as one of the world's greatest cities for business.

"The shortage did not begin with this government. But under David Cameron it is getting much worse.

"The number of homes built across the country in the past three years is lower than at any time since the 1920s. It should be double that: Britain can do better," he concluded.

But Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: "Labour failed an entire generation by not building enough houses but Ed Miliband has no plan to deal with the problem.

"We're taking the difficult decisions to deal with Labour's mess - delivering hundreds of thousands of new affordable homes through proper investment and fixing the planning system."

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